Cognitive subtypes in developmentally disabled children: A pilot study

  • Deborah Fein
  • Lynn Waterhouse
  • Dorothy Lucci
  • Denise Snyder


Differential diagnoses within the pervasive developmental disorders have insufficient reliability, validity, and descriptive homogeneity within groups to be used as distinct categories for research purposes. This study reports the results of cognitive subtyping of 54 developmentally disabled children. Fifty-one were successfully categorized in a small number of groups, characterized by different strengths and weaknesses on verbal, performance, memory, and quantitative tests. About half of the children had the relatively good visuospatial performance expected on the basis of previous literature on autistic children; these children were not behaviorally more autistic than the others. Measures of internal validity are reported, as well as validation by cognitive and behavioral variables. These results tentatively suggest that such psychiatric manifestations as autistic aloofness and maintenance of sameness may be relatively independent of cognitive skill patterns.


Pilot Study Differential Diagnosis Previous Literature Research Purpose Internal Validity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (1980).Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed.). Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  2. Annet, M. (1970). The growth of manual preference and speed.British Journal of Psychology, 61, 545–558.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bartak, L., Rutter, M., & Cox, A. (1977). A comparative study of infantile autism and specific development receptive language disorders: III. Discriminant function analysis.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 7, 383–396.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Boucher, J., & Warrington, E. (1976). Memory deficits in early infantile autism: Some similarities to the amnesic syndrome.British Journal of Psychology, 67, 73–87.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Coleman, M. (1976).The autistic syndromes. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
  6. Dawson, G. (1983). Lateralized brain dysfunction in autism: Evidence from the Halstead-Reitan neuropsychological battery.Journal of Autism and Development Disorders, 13, 269–286.Google Scholar
  7. DeMyer, M. K., Barton, S., & Norton, J. (1972). A comparison of adaptive verbal and motor profiles of psychotic and nonpsychotic subnormal children.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 2, 359–377.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Denckla, M. B. (1973). Development of speed in repetitive and successive finger-movements in normal children.Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 15, 635–645.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Denckla, M. B. (1974). Development of motor co-ordination in normal children.Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 16, 729–741.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Dubes, R., & Jain, A. (1979). Validity studies in clustering methodologies.Pattern Recognition, 11, 235–254.Google Scholar
  11. Dunn, L. (1965).Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test. Circle Pines, Minnesota: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
  12. Etemad, J., & Szurek, S. (1973). A modified follow-up study of a group of psychotic children. In S. Szurek & I. Berlin (Eds.),Clinical studies in childhood psychosis. New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  13. Fein, D., Humes, M., Kaplan, E., Lucci, D., & Waterhouse, L. (1984). The question of left hemisphere dysfunction in autistic children.Psychological Bulletin, 95, 258–281.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Fein, D., Skoff, B., & Mirsky, A. F. (1981). Clinical correlates of brainstem dysfunction in autistic children.Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 11, 303–315.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Frith, U. (1970). Studies in pattern detection in normal and autistic children: Immediate recall of auditory sequences.Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 3, 413–420.Google Scholar
  16. Gillies, S. (1965). Some abilities of psychotic children and subnormal controls.Journal of Mental Deficiency Research, 9, 89–101.Google Scholar
  17. Guertin, W., & Bailey, J. (1970).Introduction to modern factor analysis. Ann Arbor: Edwards Brothers.Google Scholar
  18. Hermelin, B. (1966). Psychological research. In J. K. Wing (Ed.),Early Childhood Autism (1st ed.). Oxford: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  19. Hermelin, B., & O'Connor, N. (1975). The recall of digits by normal, deaf and autistic children.British Journal of Psychology, 66, 203–209.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Kaufman, A., & Kaufman, N. (1977).Clinical evaluation of young children with the McCarthy scales. New York: Grune and Stratton.Google Scholar
  21. Kendell, R. E. (1975).The role of diagnosis in psychiatry. London: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  22. Lockyer, L., & Rutter, M. (1970). A five to fifteen year follow-up study of infantile psychosis: IV. Patterns of cognitive ability.British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 9, 152–163.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. McCarthy, D. (1972).McCarthy scales of children's abilities. New York: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  24. Morris, R. (1982).The developmental classification of learning disabled children using cluster analysis. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Florida.Google Scholar
  25. Ornitz, E., & Ritvo, E. (1976). Medical assessment. In E. Ritvo (Ed.),Autism: Diagnosis, current research and management. New York: Spectrum.Google Scholar
  26. Prior, M. R., & Chen, C. S. (1976). Short-term and serial memory in autistic, retarded, and normal children.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 6, 121–131.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Rimland, B. (1978). Savant capabilities of autistic children. In G. Serban, (Ed.),Cognitive defects in the development of mental illness. New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  28. Rutter, M., Shaffer, D., & Shephard, M. (1975).A multi-axial classification of chlidhood psychiatric disorders. Geneva: WHO.Google Scholar
  29. Satz, P., & Morris, J. (1981). Learning disability subtypes: A review. In F. J. Priozzolo & M. C. Wittrock (Eds.),Neuropsychological and cognitive proesses in reading. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  30. Tager-Flusberg, H. (1981). On the nature of linguistic functioning in early infantile autism.Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 11, 45–56.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Thorndike, R., & Hagen, E. (1977).Measurement and evaluation in psychology and education (4th ed.). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  32. Tubbs, V. K. (1966). Types of linguistic disabilities in psychotic children.Journal of Mental Deficiency Research, 10, 230–240.Google Scholar
  33. Tymchuk, A., Simmons, J., & Neafsey, S. (1977). Intellectual characteristics of adolescent childhood psychotics with high verbal ability.Journal of Mental Deficiency Research, 27, 133–138.Google Scholar
  34. Waterhouse, L., & Fein, D. (1982). Language skills in developmentally disabled children.Brain and Language, 15, 307–333.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Waterhouse, L., Fein, D., Nath, J., & Snyder, D. (in press). Pervasive developmental disorders and schizophrenia occurring in childhood: A review of critical commentary. In Tischler, G. (ed.)DSM-III: An Interim Appraisal. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  36. Wing, L., & Gould, J. (1979). Severe impairments of social interaction and associated abnormalities in children: Epidemiology and classification.Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 9, 11–29.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Zaidel, E. (1976). Auditory vocabulary of the right hemisphere following brain bisection or hemidecortication.Cortex, 12, 191–211.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah Fein
    • 1
  • Lynn Waterhouse
    • 2
  • Dorothy Lucci
    • 1
  • Denise Snyder
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratory of NeuropsychologyBoston University School of MedicineBoston
  2. 2.Trenton State CollegeUSA

Personalised recommendations